Fascinating Hong Kong combines ancient Chinese culture with British influences. The Asian heritage, of course, is much older, and the city’s most interesting traditions are Chinese. Here are a few of them.
At Hong Kong lunar new year, the city engages in a tradtion called Kau Cim. It’s a dinivnation ritual, a ritual to foretell events. It’s also called The Oracle of Kuan Yin by Buddhists.
The ritual takes place before an altar in a Buddhist or Taoist temple. One individual is chosen to represent the people. After devotions he asks a question silently to the deity. The answer is given in the form of a numbered stick.
Several stocks, called Kau Cim sticks are store in a cylinder called a Cim bucket. On each stick there’s a number. The supplicant shakes the cylinder and a stick falls out. If more than one stick falls, the act must be repeated. On the Kau Cim stick there’s a number that corresponds to one of 100 prophecies. This prediction answers the question that’s been asked.
To confirm the answer, the individual performing the ceremony tosses two jiaobei blocks, which are crescent-shaped pieces of wood. The validity of the oracle’s answer depends on whether the blocks fal face-down or face-up.
Generally, the answer itself demands interpretation, which is given by a priest, or simply by a volunteer.
Another traditional ritual is the annual Dragon Boat festival. Three fisherman‘s organization each visit four temples and bring statues of the gods back to their halls. On the day of the festival, the statues are towed by dragon boats in a water parade, and then returned to the temples.
The Ghost Festival (the Yu Lan Festival) lasts for the seventh lunar month of each year. The ritual offers sacrifices to the natives’ ancestors and to their ghosts. The participants burn incense and joss papers (made of bamboo), and performing Chinese operas and other dramas.
The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance stems from an event that, legend has it, occurred in 1880. The plague broke out in a Chinese village. Villagers planted joss sticks in the form of a dragon to ward off the disease. The ritual was successful, and today the people of Hong Kong celebrate each year with the Fire Dragon dance, which lasts for three days.
And of course there are traditional Hong Kong foods. There’s a soup made from chicken blood, and chicken liver is used for a dish called Golden Coin Chicken. Some dishes are seasonal. In winter, cooked snake is the custom, and in the autumn paddy chicken or frogs are preferred. Other foods are associated with particular festivals. During the Dragon Boat festival, for example, it’s traditional to eat rice dumplings wrapped in lotus leaves. During the Mid-autumn festival, it’s customary to eat moon-cakes, pastries filled with lotus seed paste, and eaten with tea.
The best part of Hong Kong is that it’s easy to get to. There are plenty of Melbourne to Hong Kong flights – at reasonable prices!